Photograph of Margaret Laurence (left, then Peggy Wemyss) with Helen Warkentin and other students from Union College in Winnipeg, 1944. Image no. ASC02020.
Born July 18, 1926 in Neepawa Manitoba, Laurence is perhaps best know for her novels,The Diviners and The Stone Angel. To celebrate what would be Laurence’s eighty-fifth birthday, the archives are highlighting a collection of correspondence donated by her former college roommate, Helen Warkentin (now Helen Stanley).
The two women were roommates at Union College in Winnipeg during the Second World War. In the three letters attached, Laurence discusses summer travels, school grades and a colourful account of her experience working as a fruit picker during her summer break.
York University is the proud custodian of the Margaret Laurence archives, which consists of manuscripts, research notes, short story drafts, children’s stories, speeches and addresses, poetry and reviews, translations and other creative material created and accumulated by Laurence throughout her career. The archives also include Laurence’s correspondence with her family, friends, other writers, artists, publishers, scholars, media organization and readers. These records were donated to York University between 1980 and 1989, due almost entirely to Laurence’s friendship with Professor Emerita of English, Clara Thomas. Prof. Thomas convinced Laurence to donate her literary papers at a time when Canadian writers were beginning to be recognized and studied by academic scholars. Thomas, herself a Laurence scholar, taught some of the first Canadian literature courses in Canadian universities.
A copy of the archives’ finding aid can be found here.
Additional correspondence from Margaret Laurence can also be found in the Cameron family papers here.
There is also a collection of material related to Margaret Laurence acquired from a variety of sources. You can access this finding aid in-person at the archives.